Moshe Rabbeinu is first introduced to us in Parashat Shemot. The Torah explains how his birth is concealed from the public so that he is saved from Paroh’s evil decree that all Jewish males be killed. Bat Paroh, Paroh’s daughter, eventually finds Moshe after he is placed in a basket and sent down the Nile River. Throughout the first two Aliyot, Moshe plays an inactive role. It is not until Moshe is described as an adult that he becomes an active figure in society. The Pesukim state, “VaYehi BaYamim HaHeim VaYigdal Moshe VaYeitzei El Echav VaYa’ar BeSivlotam VaYa’ar Ish Mitzri Makeh Ish Ivri MeiEchav VaYifen Koh VaChoh VaYa’ar Ki Ein Ish VaYach Et HaMitzri VaYitmeneihu BaChol,” “It happened in those days that Moshe grew up and went out to his brothers and saw their burdens; he saw an Egyptian striking a Hebrew. He turned this way and that way and saw that there was no man, so he struck down the Egyptian and hid him in the sand” (Shemot 2:11-12). Commentating on these Pesukim, Rashi quotes the Midrash that explains exactly what transpired. He explains that Moshe looks into the future of the Egyptian and sees that nobody from the Egyptian’s family would convert to Judaism. No righteous person, as the Siftei Chachamim adds, would come from this Egyptian’s lineage. Moshe has the ability, the Midrash states, to view the future of the Egyptian’s family, and because of this ability, Moshe takes drastic action by killing the Egyptian.
The Torah’s description of Moshe’s first active encounter with the outside world is telling. Moshe’s first action of killing the Egyptian must be compared to his last, as the comparison teaches us an important message.
In Sefer Devarim, immediately preceding his reiteration of the entire Torah on the banks of the Yarden river, Moshe sets aside three cities of refuge. The Pasuk states, “Az Yavdil Moshe Shalosh Arim,” “Then Moshe designated three cities [of refuge]” (Devarim 4:41). The Gemara (Makkot 10b) explains that Moshe understands that these three cities of refuge on the opposite side of the Yarden will not go into effect until the three inside of Israel are established later. Moshe realizes, says the Gemara, that his actions will have no influence on the present-day situation; nonetheless, he takes the opportunity to fulfill the will of Hashem. By doing so, Moshe displays a strong sensitivity for the needs of the future. The Torah places bookends around Moshe’s life with two actions of foresight. First, he kills the Egyptian after seeing his family’s future; second, he designates three cities of refuge specifically for the future.
Moshe’s legacy and message is clear: the future must always play a role in one’s actions. Before we act, we must always consider what purpose our action has and what influence it may have in the future.